Jess gets to know Leslie's father by volunteering to help fix up their house. By working alongside him and spending time with him and Leslie, Jess gets to know what Bill Burke is really like.
Leslie had been spending a lot of time working on the house with her father, and Jess had actually been a little jealous, because she did not seem to have time for him anymore. Jess, who has a very different relationship with his own parents, does not get it when Leslie "glowingly" tells him how she is "learning...to understand her father"; to him, parents are no more "meant to be understood...than the safe at the Millsburg First National (is) sitting around begging him to crack it". Leslie finally confronts Jess about his feelings, and suggests that Jess come and help at the house and get to know her father.
At first Jess is uncomfortable being around "Bill", but he soon discovers that the man is a highly intelligent and genuine person. Jess is used to working hard, and is skilled in a number of ways that help out with the home improvement project. It pleases Jess to find that despite Bill's deep capacity for book knowledge, there are ways in which Jess can be "really useful to him, not a nuisance to be tolerated or set out on the porch like P.T". Bill is truly thankful for Jess' help with the house and honestly appreciates him as a person. By taking the chance to get to know Leslie's father, Jess' horizons are expanded and he finds that there are families which are far different from his own (Chapter 7).